Columns / Discourse / May 22, 2013

Last thoughts: Finding truth and understanding

When Kyle Cruz asked me to write for World Politics Corner, I was excited by what he told me. This would be a column that dealt exclusively with world news or events that impact the world. With this, my last time writing for this column, I wanted to leave some final thoughts on why a column like this is important, and what it is I hope readers got out of my four years of ramblings.

When starting to write for WPC, I wanted to present views that weren’t necessarily my own, but the views that weren’t always available in the Ameri-centric or Euro-centric news cycle that dominates how we, in this country, see the rest of the world. More often than not we’re not given a holistic view of a situation; rather we’re given a line, a story that needs to be perpetuated for some reason that isn’t always entirely clear. My piece on the Marathon bombings was a part of that general tapestry. But why is having a forum for non-American views in the U.S. important?

I’d like to offer up this reason: because the information we digest constructs the way we understand the world, and the way we understand the world impacts how we act in it.

It is so jarring to find people who are well-traveled, maybe have even lived in another country, and leave it only to perpetuate the myths of that place. It’s as if those months or years somewhere culminated in as much an experience as if they had only spent four hours in the airport. This disconnect is just a small demonstration of how much our pre-registered stories control us. Queer theorist Judith Butler said that our definitions of words impact not just how we imagine, but how we “do” in the world.  I think this extends to our definitions or ideas of places.

When the only image of Pakistan most Americans see is the region of Waziristan, it is no wonder people are shocked to hear about the vibrant cities of the country. The images of “barbarity” or “lack of civilization” makes it easier to distance ourselves from others and more able to condone inhumane acts by us done against others.

I won’t spend too much time on the dangers of a simple story, because those are evident. But the point to make is that the stories we buy into is a lifestyle choice. As students at Knox, we’re more privy to the responsibilities of this truth. While it may not seem like it at times, we choose what to believe when given information from news media; we can choose how we filter through the muck.

We’ve been given, at least in these last four years, the training to think critically and in some cases, skeptically. We’ve been taught to question our assumptions. To take in everything CNN, Fox News, NPR, TKS or any other medium as a whole truth is irresponsible and a detriment to the four years we’ve spent learning.

So what are the alternatives to this kind of a lifestyle?

Be informed from a number of sources. Sure you could read through the headlines on one news website and then spend a couple hours procrastinating on Facebook to quell your senioritis and post-Flunk lull, but what about picking an international headline or two and reading from a variety of news outlets.

Pick an international organization like BBC, a domestic one like MSNBC and then one that is local to the area the event is happening in. (If following the building collapse in Bangladesh, look at Bengali news outlets.) How are each of these groups spinning the story?

And then, like Kyle said in his last column, act. In an interconnected world, we’re all implicated. Take more steps than liking something on Facebook or printing posters: have the hard discussions, find plans of action. Remember that we have a responsibility to each other.

With that said, thank you for lending me your time over the last four years. It has been a wonderful privilege.

Rana Tahir
Rana Tahir is a political columnist for The Knox Student, primarily covering international issues. She will graduate in June 2013 with degrees in political science and creative writing, after which she will attend the University of Denver's publishing institute.

Tags:  Ameri-centric assumption Bangladesh Boston Marathon kyle cruz media social media Waziristan

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